Offense from Nats prospects helping Salt River pursue AFL crown

Some of the Nationals' best position player prospects are on display in the Arizona Fall League with the Salt River Rafters. Brian Goodwin, Jason Martinson, Anthony Rendon and Matt Skole have combined to provide a good measure of the offense for the Rafters as they pursue the AFL crown.

The Rafters are 11-9 with about two weeks remaining in the season. Salt River had hit 16 homers in 20 games, second to Mesa. They have 38 stolen bases, a league-leading total. Their .393 slugging percentage ranks third.

Of course, not all this is because of the Nats' four players, but the team has a shot because of their firepower. Despite losing two in a row, the Rafters trail first place Scottsdale by just a half-game.

Goodwin is fifth in slugging percentage (.571). Skole is close at .524. Pitching coach Matt Grater said that in Martinson's first Arizona at-bat, he hit the ball so high and so far down the left field line that the umpire could not tell if it was a homer or not. Martinson has two doubles and four RBIs in seven games.

"It is awesome," Skole said. "All four of us, we are good friends, we hung out with each other in spring training. We are getting closer as friends. It is fun to be out here and watch them play every day. Batting practice is a joke, obviously, with all these guys out here."

Skole said he has been able to reacquaint himself with Martinson and Goodwin and see Rendon's swing up close for the first time.

"Everybody out here is hitting the ball 430 feet in batting practice. It is fun to watch them go out and play. I haven't been able to see Anthony (Rendon) play at all this year. It is nice to see him play and what kind of tools he features," Skole said.

"I got to get back with Jason (Martinson) at the end of the year in Potomac. We played together the whole first half of the year (in Hagerstown). We kind of built a bond. We have been working at third and doing infield drills. Same thing with Goodie, I played with him for almost a half year."

Skole said he is enjoying his time and experience in Arizona, but he is also be careful not to overdo it after a long campaign.

"It is nice when I am playing every other day, they give you enough rest," Skole said. "I am excited every time I get to go play. The only thing is mentally I am all there and I am amped up and ready to play, but obviously our bodies are tired. Goodie, Jason and me, we are going on game 160.

"For me, it is my first full season and it has been long and obviously my body is tired and I am just grinding through it right now, but I am learning to get better and I am really benefiting from it."

Skole said it is special to have former Giants and Diamondbacks third baseman Matt Williams as the team's skipper. With Williams' 17 seasons of major league experience, Skole has been able to get crucial insight from Williams on what it was like to play baseball every day at the highest level, and how to succeed when you may encounter hitting droughts.

"It is awesome," Skole said. "I remember growing up and watching that guy play. He is a great manager, all the guys love him. I have no doubt in my mind he will be a big league manager in a couple years.

"He knows the game, so when you are going through ups and downs he knows what is going on in your head. It is good to have him and good to network with him, he knows a lot of people. It is nice to have him out here."

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